Last week, I delayed myself to a point that I did absolutely nothing with my time off, and the one day I tried, ended up bucketing down with rain. This week I was determined to change that – there’s no guarantee the weather will stay nice considering the snowfall we had earlier, so I need to get through the last of the hikes while I have the chance. This morning, I’m out of the house by 9, in Cheakamus Crossing by 9:30, and begin the Train Wreck Hike.
This is one of the newest hikes in Whistler, and it has some history. The train wreck has been a must-see attraction in Whistler almost since the crash, but up until last year, getting to it was ‘technically’ illegal, because you could only get to it by crossing the train tracks since it was blocked in by a river, and the railway. When it became clear that stopping people from visiting, the council figured out a solution – create an easy hike from Cheakamus Crossing, with a brand new suspension bridge over Cheakamus River, which makes it possible to visit without breaking the law.
The wreck consists of several rail cars that crashed over forty years ago when a train sped through an area undergoing repairs. For some it poses a mystery, given that the cars are over 150 yards away from the railway line, yet didn’t damage a single one of the trees around them. In reality – the train crashed and blocked the railway line, and loggers were brought in with their equipment, who dragged the cars into the forest to leave them to the elements. There was a joke when they first crashed that they were a cheap option for staying in Whistler, but now they’re mostly known for the graffiti art covering them head to toe. There’s also a bike park, with railings and landings for more experienced bikers (although when I visited, most of it looked decrepit).
I’m here so early, that I have the entire area to myself, and it’s immediately obvious why so many people were drawn here. The contrast between the cars and the forest is urban fantasy at its best. You can still see the dents and buckling from the crash behind the paint, but the outsides are still in great condition – some of them you can climb up the ladders and clamber onto the roofs…then you step inside the car and see the rotting wooden boards. When I summoned the courage to go in, I swear I was hearing voices and had to bolt out. Most likely it was just the wood creaking, but still had me shivering.
Most of the cars are collected in the same area near the river, but if you head South, you’ll find two in really bad condition – probably the main casualties in the crash, hoarding together not too far from the river rapids. I can hear them long before I see them, and getting there requires some risky navigation (learning the hard way the boots I bought for winter are not great for hiking in the wet), but it must be a popular place to visit, cause there’s even a bench here. Sadly, you can’t really see the rapids properly, due to the location of the rocks – this combined with my height issues and my non-confidence in my shoes mean I don’t want to get too close to the edge. There are no safety barriers here.
It hasn’t taken nearly as long to get here as I expected, and I know there are more walks and hikes around here – and I can sort of see one winding through the forest against the river, so decide to check it out. What I get is a quiet and calm hour just wandering around the forest, while the weather decides to become even better than I expected. Even my jacket ends up in my bag as I start sweating.
However, I do find myself having to walk over the train tracks to keep walking, and suddenly make it to the highway. Not my plan at all. However, there’s a different trail that will head back towards the train wreck, called ‘runaway train’ – so I head along that. It’s a lot more gruelling than my wandering so far, because most of what I was walking on felt more like a country road, while this is less a path and more ‘where a bunch of other people have walked through recently.’ It still takes a good hour and a half to make my way back though, especially since a lot of this route is uphill for me. So, when I make it back to the train cars, there’s a lot more people wandering around, and I figure I have two choices. Head back to Cheakamus and explore the area…or head along the ‘old’ route to the rail cars and go visit Function Junction since I’m near the area. Decide trekking the old route is my best option…mainly because I’d been told it wasn’t that far.
This was clearly blatant lies. I was figuring it was a half hour walk – but twenty minutes later it’s clear I’m not even halfway there. However, I have stumbled across Cheakamus Falls, which are stunning.
My biggest frustration is I CAN’T get closer, because my shoes just cannot get grip and I’m not trusting them on the ledges. It’s a quiet beauty compared to the brashness of the cars.
As I keep going further along, the path becomes awkward to track – I’m dependent on blue ribbon hanging from trees to keep me on track, right up until I find the river cutting my trek off. I have to emerge from the forest and walk along the train track in order to get to the other side. Along the way I run into some girls who are walking along the track rather than the forest, and give me some directions. Thankfully I spot some blue tags in the forest and descend once again. About 20 minutes later (and some stunningly beautiful river spots), the path intentionally moves towards the railway line, even with arrows spray painted on rocks. When I get out, there’s even spray paint on the tracks – clearly previous hikers have made sure people know how to get where they go – and head across.
Ten minutes later sees me wandering under the highway bridge, and a much easier walk. Soon enough, I’m finally spotting Function Junction, and hit up the Re-Use-It Centre before I head home. Was planning to find something for Halloween…but instead I find a slow cooker. I’ve been after one of these for weeks, so it’s in my basket even as I leave the costume rack empty handed. Also grab another pot since we could really use one, and medium sized pots with lids are gold dust in Whistler.
Tomorrow I’m back to work, but at least I’ve done something with my time off today.